Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller smiles as he speaks at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, during his farewell ceremony. Mueller is stepping down in September after 12 years heading the agency. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
I’m not a huge fan of Mueller’s investigation now or at any time in the past. I think the whole “special counsel” idea is utterly corrupt and anti-democratic. I think the “do anything you want” charter granted Mueller along with a blank checkbook does violence to the idea of justice and civil liberties. I think Mueller’s close relationship with Comey makes him totally conflicted if he is, indeed, considering a president firing a presidential appointee to be obstruction of something or another. His selection of Democrat partisans to fill a majority of senior legal positions on his team is utterly inexplicable. However, the most damaging revelation about the nature of this investigation comes not from any decisions Mueller made, but from a different source entirely.
Two weeks ago we learned that the lead FBI agent on the investigation, a guy named Peter Strzok, had been removed from Mueller’s investigation and demoted from deputy FBI director for counterintelligence to a nothingburger job in human resources because he was sending pro-Clinton, anti-Sanders and virulently anti-Trump text messages to his paramour, Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer who worked in the office of deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe.
There were a lot of curious parts to this. Mueller could take him off the Russia probe but Mueller clearly has no authority to demote the guy. Something else caused that to happen. The big mystery, of course, was how were his text messages discovered to begin with? Someone had to have some reason to snoop around the personal communications of a very senior FBI official. Now we have an answer to some of these. The text messages were discovered by the Department of Justice IG investigating the conduct of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. They were discovered because Strzok was using his FBI issued phone to send the messages and all of them were archived on an FBI server. The demotion may or may not be connected to the texts but it certainly was connected to the Clinton email investigation.
As Mueller’s apologists are fond of saying, having an opinion doesn’t mean you have a bias and Mueller obviously thought Strzok stepped over the line from merely opposing Trump, like the rest of his staff, to opposing him to such an extent that it wasn’t defensible.
If one puts aside all the unflattering descriptions of Trump and of his family (Melania and Baron are “douchebags”) the most troubling revelation is this August 15 text from Strzok to his girlfriend:
I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40….
Part of this we can infer. At some point on or shortly before August 15, Strzok, Page, and Andrew McCabe were hanging out in McCabe’s office handicapping the election and it seems that Page was of the view that there was no way possible Trump could create a path to victory. If you recall, that was not an uncommon. In fact, on August 15 The Hill published an article showing how unlikely it was that Trump could win in the electoral college. Strzok is not convinced. He refers to something else he sees as an insurance policy against the unlikely prospect of a Trump win. What could it be?
Mother Jones, October 31, 2016. “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump. Byline: David Corn. David Corn, by the way, is one of the known attendees at a meeting put together by Fusion GPS to brief the Trump dossier to selected members of the media.
This was, the former spy [Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump dossier] remarks, “an extraordinary situation.” He regularly consults with US government agencies on Russian matters, and near the start of July on his own initiative—without the permission of the US company that hired him—he sent a report he had written for that firm to a contact at the FBI, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates, who asked not to be identified. (He declines to identify the FBI contact.) The former spy says he concluded that the information he had collected on Trump was “sufficiently serious” to share with the FBI.
We don’t know if Strzok is Steele’s “contact at the FBI,” but it is a safe bet that, even if he wasn’t, that by August 15 he’d seen the Trump dossier. Strzok was also the FBI’s liaison with CIA and it would be a safe bet he’d passed the document on. Representative Jim Jordan thinks it goes deeper
“Here’s what I think Director Wray. I think Peter Strzok, head of counter intelligence at the FBI, Peter Strzok the guy who ran the Clinton investigation and did all the interviews, Peter Strzok, the guy who was running the Russia investigation at the FBI, Peter Strzok, Mr. ‘Super Agent’ at the FBI, I think he’s the guy who took the application to the FISA court…and if that happened…if you have the FBI working with the Democrats’ campaign, taking opposition research, dressing it all up and turning it into an intelligence document and taking it to the FISA court so they can spy on the other campaign…if that happened…that’s as wrong as it gets.
Can’t say I totally disagree with him.
For something to be an insurance policy, it has to be able to be used. Strzok’s text gives the impression that the “insurance policy” is already in play, that he doesn’t think it is necessary but it’s there just to make sure. One easy reading of this is that he thought Clinton was going to win on the merits but, just to be sure, he had set the oppo research done by Fusion GPS into motion to create a scandal that Trump would have a hard time shaking off thus guaranteeing Clinton’s win. What we don’t know from this is whether he knew the document was oppo and how it had been developed or if he was treating it as legitimate intelligence. My reading indicates the latter. YMMV.
Regardless of Strzok’s knowledge of the provenance of the dossier, IF it was the insurance policy he referred to, that indicates a clear intention to interfere in the election. If the insurance policy was not the dossier, we need to know what it was.
I don’t know if this is a federal crime but if “collusion” is a crime I can’t imagine “meddling” wouldn’t be.